Elon Law crowns champions of second annual Billings, Exum & Frye National Moot Court Competition
Thirty-three teams of law students representing 21 law schools participated in the second annual Billings, Exum & Frye National Moot Court Competition at Elon University School of Law on March 30 and 31. North Carolina Supreme Court Justice Paul Martin Newby delivered the keynote address at the competition banquet.
The competition champions are Tashina Harris, Tyson Johnson and Mark Scirocco of George Mason University School of Law. They won a well contested final round against the second place team comprised of Tessa Vinson and Jessica Delany representing William & Mary Law School. Scirocco and Delany tied for the Best Oral Advocate award in the final round of the competition.
Semifinalist teams included Kelsey Heaton, Philip Morgan and Andrea Zepeda of the University of Houston Law Center and Al Bender, Rebecca Hartrick and Kyra Smerkanich of George Mason University School of Law. Bender, Hartrick and Smerkanich won the Best Brief Award among Petitioners’ Briefs.
Ballari Mukherjee, Susannah Russell and Courtney Walsh of the University of Houston Law Center won the Best Brief Award among Respondents’ Briefs, receiving the highest overall brief score in the competition. Carmen Cabrero of Regent University School of Law won the Best Oral Advocate award for preliminary rounds of the competition.
“The quality of competitors at this year’s competition was phenomenal, and the award winners should be extremely proud of their accomplishments,” noted Alan Woodlief, Associate Dean for Administration, Associate Professor of Law, and Director of the Moot Court Program at Elon Law. “Elon Law and its Moot Court Board are gratified to provide these students a forum to showcase and further hone their exceptional advocacy skills. We look forward to another great competition in spring 2013.”
Click here for additional results from the competition.
Click here for the list of 21 schools that competed in the 2012 competition.
Each team in the competition participated in three preliminary rounds of oral argument, after which the field was narrowed for octofinal, quarterfinal, semifinal and championship rounds. Teams submitted briefs in advance of the competition, representing either the Petitioner or the Respondent in a hypothetical case before the Supreme Court of the United States focused on First Amendment issues. Competitors were judged on the quality of their appellate brief and oral arguments.
More than 100 distinguished judges and lawyers volunteered to serve as judges for the competition, including: North Carolina Supreme Court Chief Justice Sarah Parker and Associate Justices Robert H. Edmunds, Jr. and Paul M. Newby; North Carolina Court of Appeals Judges Samuel J. Ervin, Jr., Robert N. Hunter, Jr., Donna Stroud, and Ralph A. Walker (ret.); Magistrate Judge L. Patrick Auld, U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina; and James L. Gale, Special Superior Court Judge for Complex Business Cases, North Carolina Business Court. Seventeen Elon Law alumni served as judges as well.
Click here for a list of judges serving in the 2012 competition.
Pamela Lawrence, a member of the Class of 2012 and a member of the Moot Court Board at Elon Law, delivered remarks at the competition banquet thanking all those who served as judges in the competition on behalf of both the Moot Court Board and Elon University School of Law.
The competition honors three of North Carolina's most distinguished lawyers: Rhoda Bryan Billings, James G. Exum, Jr. and Henry E. Frye. Each has served as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of North Carolina and in a variety of leadership positions within the legal profession and in public life. All three justices are founding members of Elon Law’s national advisory board. Each served as a judge in the final round of the 2012 competition, along with Justices Parker, Edmunds and Newby. Click here for biographical information about Justices Billings, Exum and Frye.
In his keynote address, Justice Newby highlighted some less well-known dimensions of the lives and contributions of Justices Billings, Exum and Frye to the betterment of the legal profession. Newby noted that Justice Billings, as Co-Chair of The Constitution Project’s National Right to Counsel Committee, had testified before the United States House of Representatives Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security in 2009, advocating for greater training and resources for those representing the indigent. He noted that Justice Exum, who wrote 402 opinions and 208 concurring or dissenting opinions for the North Carolina Supreme Court, was considered by his peers to be “truly a scholar” of the state’s history and constitution. Newby noted that Justice Frye, after being elected to the North Carolina General Assembly in his early career in public service, introduced as his first piece of legislation in that body an amendment to the state constitution to end literacy tests as a requirement to vote in the state of North Carolina.
Newby called the justices three of his legal heroes and said that their work was inspirational.
“They are all so intimately involved in legal education, helping folks like you, like me, become better lawyers, better judges, mentoring, instructing, encouraging, whether working on some commission, whether it is one-on-one time, that’s the kind of folks that these are, because to them, our profession is a calling,” Newby said of Justices Billings, Exum and Frye. “It’s a calling for us to not just think about ourselves, but to think about why it is we were attracted to the law in the first place. It’s all about justice, and helping us ensure that our society maintains the rule of law, that each individual, each entity that appears before the court, is treated the same, that we as advocates are able to properly provide them the legal counsel that they need.”
Justice Newby also asked competitors to reflect on the question of when religious speech becomes political speech, a question pertinent to the First Amendment issue involved in the competition problem. Citing the writings of George Washington, Alexis de Tocqueville, Thomas Jefferson, and the constitutions of North Carolina and the United States, Newby illustrated the prominent place of philosophy with religious grounding in the nation’s founding.
“No matter where jurisprudentially we may be headed, I think it’s important for us to at least be appreciative of the history and the source, the foundation at least according to our founders, of our freedoms and our liberties,” Newby said.
Melissa Apperson, also a member of the Class of 2012 and Moot Court Board, George R. Johnson, Jr., Dean and Professor of Law at Elon University School of Law and Steven D. House, Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs at Elon University, offered welcoming remarks at the competition banquet. In addition to Lawrence and Apperson, fellow Moot Court Board members Beth Klein, Jennifer Mathews, and Chris McLain, delivered remarks at the competition banquet.
Assoc. Dean Woodlief recognized McClain and Apperson for co-chairing the competition planning committee. Woodlief also thanked the 41 second- and third-year law students who form the 2012-2013 Moot Court Board at Elon Law for their contributions in organizing and hosting the competition.
Woodlief expressed appreciation to the law firm of Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice, LLP for sponsoring the team awards of the competition and to Joy and Leary Davis, Founding Dean and Professor Emeritus at Elon Law, for contributing to the competition as banquet sponsors.
Additional details about the Billings, Exum & Frye National Moot Court Competition are available at law.elon.edu/mootcourt.